Right in the heart of Kent’s Heritage Coast stands three of our county’s most iconic castles, Walmer, Deal and Dover. These castles have stood guard on the coast for centuries, and in the case of Dover Castle, stand right at the top of the White Cliffs that have been immortalised in song, literature and history. So, is it any wonder these three astonishing English Heritage fortresses have made it to our list of Kent’s must visits? Plan your break and start planning which of these icons is on your family’s hitlist (we recommend all three).
Let’s start with the icon that is Dover Castle, shall we? Known as the key to England, this mighty fortress has many historical gems to discover, from a Roman lighthouse to an Anglo-Saxon church and an underground hospital. Step into Henry II’s medieval palace and discover vibrant stately rooms, unmissable rooftop views and the tales of one of England’s most important castles.
From medieval ambition to World War II secret missions, your next stop is the wartime tunnels for an immersive tour that brings to life Operation Dynamo and the dramatic Dunkirk rescue mission. Hidden deep within the White Cliffs, the Underground Hospital is an intriguing look into the castle’s Second World War dressing station, with authentic sounds and smells to really paint the picture of wartime life.
Just along the coast stands Walmer Castle, a Tudor artillery fortress transformed into a stately home for the likes of the Duke of Wellington and the Queen Mother, so you’d better believe it has more than a few stories to share. Inside the castle the Wellington Room tells of the Duke’s 23 years spent here and artefacts include the armchair where he died, his campaign bed and even his iconic boots.
Outside the 8 acres of award-winning gardens offer coastal views, wild flower meadows, woodland walks and formal gardens to explore. The Queen Mother’s garden is a serene spot to sit and soak up the beauty of this jewel in Walmer’s crown, while the Sunken Glen garden is a newly reinstated spot to relax in a former chalk quarry. Little adventurers will love letting off steam in the natural play trail on the woodland walk. Here hollow tree trunks, giant nests and wibbly wobbly bridges make the most of the landscape and the soaring trees above. Spot sculptures of woodland birds along the trail for some secret learning opportunities (we won’t tell if you don’t) and let your explorers feel the thrill of fun in the great outdoors.
Mere minutes from Walmer Castle (we recommend cycling along the coast), Deal Castle was built by order of King Henry VIII. Regarded as one of the finest Tudor artillery castles in England, it’s impressive – seriously, you should see its Tudor Rose footprint from above! Once you’ve made it over the ramparts, the castle storerooms and tunnels are waiting to be explored. Learn all about the security fears that shaped the country’s defences during the reign of King Henry VIII, and even his own married life! Budding historians will find plenty of activities and artefacts to help them learn all about the lives of those who have lived and worked here.
So there you have it, three castles each with their own intriguing history to tell about Kent’s incredible Heritage Coast.